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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Prayer for Muddling Along

by Angier Brock

Recently, in a moment some might call insanity or hubris but which may also have been an act of faith, I agreed to make a box cushion seat cover, complete with piping, to help a friend who was re-upholstering a small sofa. I do not sew very much. In fact, I have had an uneasy relationship with sewing machines for most of the five and a half decades since I first learned to use an old treadle Singer in home economics class. (For the record, I was in the seventh grade—pretty much the worst year of my then-young life).

Sewing machines themselves have certainly come a long way since 1959. The one I am currently using, borrowed from my granddaughter who is now the age I was then, is a super duper amazing digital model. After several hours with the owner’s manual, I figured out how to thread it and how to fill the bobbin. I am still learning what its various communicative beeps and error messages mean. But it is a fabulous instrument. It even threads its own needle—a boon for my aging eyes and sometimes stiff fingers.

However, even a wondrous sewing machine cannot factor out all human error. It cannot ensure that I have measured the pieces and figured the seam allowances correctly, let alone cut the fabric (and matched the checked pattern) accurately. Nor can it guarantee that the piping stays where I want it, even after I have pinned it into place. And so I continue muddling along with the project. To date, I have ripped out more stitches that I have let stay. In so doing, many of all the words I have muttered to myself would not be recognized by most people as prayer.

As I write this, I cannot say for sure how this project will turn out. My friend has assured me that the sofa cushion cover need not be perfect—as it certainly will not be. But how well or poorly it will fit, how flat or puckered the piping might be, whether or not the pattern of checks aligns with the checks on other parts of the sofa, and ultimately how acceptable the cushion will be not only in my friend’s eyes but also in mine—those things remain to be seen. 

Much of life’s journey is like that. We don’t always know how our friendships, marriages, jobs, volunteer activities, or even tonight’s dinner will turn out. Though we are constantly learning, we never learn it all, and we are prone to forgetting our earlier lessons. Sometimes we choose to give up. Other times, in what may truly be an act of faith, we choose to muddle along, despite how things look.

When it is possible to do so, I am all for keeping the faith by muddling. Sometimes we do so alone, though if we are lucky, we may find a good muddling guide or guide book. Life, of course, doesn’t always allow for “do-overs.” Sometimes when we rip the stitching out of something that didn’t come together quite the way we had hoped, the fabric gets torn. Sometimes it cannot be mended. Sometimes the mending leaves scars we know are there, even if we cover them with a well-placed throw pillow.

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